You need ropes and cable cars down here

To be resourceful is, according to the dictionary, to be ingenious, capable and full of initiative.
You need ropes and cable cars down here

These are virtues that those who live in the country often have in ample amounts.

Natural inclination and sheer necessity are both strong motivational factors for getting on with it, sorting out your own problems.

This quality of resourcefulness has been one of human kinds most valuable gifts.

Famous though the Dursey Cable Car is, little is known about one Tadgh Roger O Sullivan of Scrivogue, Garnish. on the Beara Peninsula.

Tadgh was an extraordinary man, a farmer and self-schooled engineer who, in the late fifties, designed the first ever cable car in order to access new grazing, and swinging hundreds of feet above the churning Atlantic Ocean, to get there.

His construction was made from wooden boards, cables and a system of pulleys and was used to transport Tadgh’s sheep across the channel to Crow Head Island.

This ingenious idea attracted the attention of the parish priest in Allihies, whose lobbying later led to the development of the Dursey Cable Car, the only cable car in Europe which crosses the open sea.

I remember my first trip to Dursey via cable car, some years ago.

I am what you might call sea-wary on a good day, and on this particular occasion, the sea was churning and boiling away angrily.

The little cabin that looked as if it might be made of balsa wood, was bobbing away on a pylon which looked to my increasingly panicked eye, not much more substantial than a length of washing line.

My mood wasn’t improved much when, just as we had seated ourselves gingerly inside, the door was flung open to admit an enraged ram, and then we were off.

On a recent weekend in September, the Lehanmore Community Co-operative Society, and one of its members, Paul O’Shea, organised an extraordinary event to honour one of their own – Tadgh Roger O Sullivan – and to raise funds for Kerry Mountain Rescue Team (KMRT) and the Castletownbere Coast Guards.

The event involved a dramatic joint training exercise between the two organisations, wherein they set anchors and fired ropes across the Atlantic, from the end of Crow Head Peninsula to the nearby Crow Head Island.

Members of the rescue services then travelled by rope across the open sea, all thankfully landing safely on the island.

Members of Tadgh’s family were there, including two of his daughters who had travelled from England for the occasion, and they recounted memories of travelling across the channel as young children in their father’s “mad contraption”.

They were delighted with the event and happy that their father’s achievements and his considerable contribution to Irish engineering history had finally been acknowledged.

Later, in best West Cork tradition, the Lehanmore Co-operative Society organised food and refreshments, music, an information talk by Kerry Mountain Rescue, and the presentation of a plaque to Tadgh’s family.

I talked to KMRT’s PRO and mountaineer Damien Courtney about their vital work amongst some of Ireland’s most challenging landscapes

Damien, how did it go at Crow Head?

“It was brilliant, fantastic and we were lucky with the weather.

But still, there were possible dangers.

From a technical point of view, we hadn’t conducted an exercise quite like that before.

“We were two teams, the Coastguards worked on the island and we were on the peninsula.

They had to find rocks that the ropes could be anchored into and luckily, that worked out.

“The local community had done a really great job in organising the event and we were glad to incorporate Tadgh’s achievements into such a successful community event.

Training is a vital component of our organisation.

We train regularly in a complete range of disciplines such as casualty care, technical ropework, helicopter winching, navigation and radio communication.

And all our team members are qualified to Advanced Rescue Emergency Care First Aid Level.

Many team members regularly go on their own mountaineering trips.”

What has this year been like for KMRT?

“ We generally average 35 to 40 rescues a year.

This year there’s been a lot of activity, mostly minor incidents.

But last night (September 10), we were called out when a hillwalker discovered another male walker who had collapsed and died on the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks.

“Conditions on the mountain were good at the time and the man’s death was not as the result of a fall.

“Later that evening, we were called out to a second rescue on Devil’s Ladder, Carrauntoohil, where two walkers needed assistance after one had sustained a fall.

“We never know what to expect.

I think a big part of the reduction in the all-night searches is that people are more aware and better prepared with the proper equipment before they set off.

And also these days

the team is often able to establish the precise location of those in trouble by using a grid reference provided from a smart phone.

“But we don’t recommend people relying on having phone coverage.”

You are all volunteers, I believe. What inspires you?

“Yes, we are all volunteers and the people who make up the team are all dedicated professionals.

“I became involved about ten years ago and it is very rewarding work.

“Rescuing people challenges the team’s skills, which we all find very inspiring.

We all get a great sense of satisfaction out of helping people who are often very distressed.

About a third of our funding is from the State.

We have to make up the rest.

So fundraising activities are a major preoccupation for us, because it costs approximately €50,000 per annum to run our service.

Equipment is costly and of course, it has to be regularly maintained and replaced.

That’s why we are very grateful to the Lehanmore Community Co-operative Service for coming up with such a great event, honouring a remarkable man and at the same time, raising some much-needed funds for us.”

Q&A

Damien Courtney

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